Gesture and Symbol in Safety, the Force of Culture

Safety GreatWe know in the study of culture, that culture cannot be conceptualised or learned propositionally. This is why Safety is so happy to declare culture non-understandable, ‘cloudy’ and confusing (eg. Hopkins, Busch etc.). Just don’t talk about it.

When you take an engineering and behaviourist lens to culture as Safety does, you can guarantee it has little to do with culture and is mostly about systems and behaviours (Cooper).

Just pick up any book or discussion by Safety on culture and you can be sure the discussion is NOT about culture. What a strange industry that seeks out engineers and behaviourists to talk about something they don’t understand. How fascinating this industry that seeks out people with the least expertise in something to confirm what they don’t know.

This is how we get the nonsense definition of culture: ‘what we do around here’.

Whenever or where ever you see this mantra, slogan and definition you know what follows is NOT about culture.

Yesterday we saw in Melbourne, the parading of the Nazi salute in a ‘protest’ against a trans-gender rally. The state of Victoria has already banned the public display of the swastika (

Of course, those who understand culture know that gesture and symbol are central to understanding culture, just not safety. Why? Well, you see, it can’t be measured, and if can’t be measured, it is of no interest to Safety. BTW, the most important matters of being and living, risk and safety CANNOT be measured.

I have been to Linz (Austria) many times and even though everyone knows where Hitler’s childhood home is, no one is allowed to take you there (nor do they want to). I wonder why? It’s just a house? It’s just a symbol. It’s just a salute. It’s just a gesture!

Culture is felt, experienced and non-propositional and this why gesture and symbol have so much force. All of the non-measurables of culture have extraordinary power, energy and force unto themselves. They act as archetypes. This is how Zero works.

If you look at the discourse by Safety into culture you never read about Semiotics, Poetics, Religion, symbolism, gesture, mythology etc.

When you’re feeling unwell next time, make sure you don’t see a medical specialist, just consult an engineer or behaviourist.

This is why in SPoR we study culture semiotically and Poetically. Such a study gives one amazing insight and vision into the workings of Culture that results in a positive, constructive and practical approach to culture in any setting.

If you want to understand how culture works, I’d suggest watching Star Wars a few times and use ‘the force’ to understand it.

We have just finished our free online workshop on culture and I’ll see if we can get some in the group to write for this blog on what they have learned. I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, if you want to learn about culture make sure you read nothing put out by Safety. Perhaps start with a basic text in Anthropology or Religion, this will be much more helpful.

Here are. Few suggested readings:







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